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Thursday, Nov. 4, 2010 03:05 am

The urgency of shopping local

The Party Tree is over

It was a sad day at The Party Tree Oct. 31, when we made our final closing announcement and bid farewell to our customers and employees. I wasn’t sure how closing day would be since the month leading up to it was like a roller coaster ride. Emotions were running high. Even former employees, who have been like our own children, came in to see The Party Tree one last time. By the end of the day a Party Tree family reunion was already in the making.

Although I can attribute our closing to many things, there are two main components that put the final twist of the lock on our doors.

One of our major suppliers made a highly controversial move a couple of years ago. This company lined at least 65 percent of our shelves. They told us that their business was built on independent party stores like us, which it was. To reward us they purchased our competition, a retail chain party store, which is less than a mile from our store.

The second component has happened over the last five years. In the party industry Halloween to us is like Christmas to most other retailers. It was Halloween sales that helped sustain our store for most of the year. There are national retailers, including the company referred to above, that have developed what we call “temporary” Halloween stores. They come for two months and then leave. The one that comes to Springfield is also less than a mile from our store. Each year we lost more and more of our business to them.

I never thought the day would come that The Party Tree would have to close its doors. I always thought that my children would have the chance to work in our family-owned business and that I would be able to teach them the work ethic that was instilled in me by my parents. My children are having a hard time understanding why this happened.

I had so many customers this last month tell me how sorry they were that we were closing and that they had gone through the same thing with closing their business. With each story there was a real person, a face, a family that was affected.

I am putting a challenge out to Springfield and our surrounding communities. Please support your locally owned businesses. Spend 50 cents of every dollar with an independent local business.

There is a wonderful organization that was started last year that The Party Tree was fortunate enough to be a member of. It is the Capital Area Independent Business Alliance (CAIBA). I was blown away at my first meeting. It is a “working” organization and the energy that comes from its originator, Sharon Whalen, is contagious. I have been a part of many organizations and I feel the CAIBA has made the biggest impact on me not only as a business owner but as a consumer. [Editor’s note:%u2008Sharon Whalen is publisher of Illinois Times.]

I will continue to advocate locally owned businesses no matter what lies ahead. Whether you are a locally owned business or a local consumer I urge you to support the CAIBA. Help educate the public on how their buying habits affect the community. Please go to iBuySpi.com to see how you can help your friends, neighbors, family members.

In closing, I would like to thank Springfield for the many years that you gave us. I also want to thank our 11 employees who stuck it out until the end. They are truly family and any future employer would be lucky to get them. Farewell.

Crystal L. Crossland is co-owner of The Party Tree.
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